Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe

Today has been quite possibly one of the coldest days of the winter so far; a cold-to-the-bone kind of cold when it takes an hour in a hot bath to thaw out. In the depths of winter, I can’t help but dream about summer holidays in warmer climes…

When Monarch Holidays invited me to recreate some traditional Spanish recipes for their new online Island Cookbook, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to feed my craving for sunshine food and cheer up these dark, dank days. I took my inspiration from the third largest of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria, where I have fond memories of holidaying with my family as a teenager Continue reading “Ropa Vieja and Bienmesabe”

Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts

Italian feast

Boasting honey, figs, grapes, nuts and sweet wine, this Italian feast would surely have won the approval of Bacchus himself. When I think about good food, when I dream about delicious dishes bringing together the simplest ingredients to create something truly magical, when I picture myself being served an incredible meal in an idyllic setting, I tend to find myself transported to Italy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled in Italy and I long to return. My parents are in Tuscany right now and as you can imagine I am extremely jealous. My step-mum Sue has been sending me droolsome updates on Whatsapp, replete with photos, documenting their food adventures. There have been accounts of wonderful salads with chicken, ravioli in a walnut cream sauce,  the thinnest pizzas with just one or two toppings, grilled sea bass with roast courgettes, fritto misto in the lightest of batters, fagiolini with fine green beans and bacon in tomatoes and garlic. Oh and lots of gelati with figs and cherries… The list goes on. It’s been pure torture.

So when Expedia challenged me to come up with an Italian meal for their #expediaworldonaplate challenge, I knew I would be taking my inspiration from Tuscany. Continue reading “Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts”

Fig and honey smoothie

fig and honey smoothie

Since making the Cheeky Monkey smoothie, we’ve been experimenting with all kinds of fresh juices and smoothies at Chez Bangers. This one is currently one of our favourites.

I wasn’t sure my children would like the idea of a smoothie made from dried figs, so I told them it was a honey smoothie. They gulped it down in seconds and demanded another. They also asked whether there was chocolate in it. I guess that’s partly due to the colour, but the fig does give it a lovely richness which isn’t all that dissimilar to a chocolate smoothie.

So if you’re trying to encourage your children to consume a little extra fruit and fibre, this smoothie could be a good way to go…

fig and honey smoothie

Fig and honey smoothie

Serves 2

50g dried figs, roughly chopped
250ml milk
1 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp runny honey

Place the figs in a glass and cover with milk, around 50ml. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or even better overnight, to allow the figs to become all plump and squidgy.

Simply pour the figs, along with the milk in which they have been soaking, together with the rest of the milk, oats and honey into a liquidiser and blend well until smooth.

fig and honey smoothie

As my fig and honey smoothie is a great way to sneak some extra goodies into your children’s diets (and your own while you’re at it), I’m entering it into January’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is Hidden Goodies.


Thumbs up for…

Here’s a round-up of some of the tasty titbits I’ve been sent recently and marvellous morsels I’ve discovered for myself.

Mr Trotters Collage

Mr Trotter’s Great British Pork Crackling

I’m prone to tutting when we’re down our local and my husband buys a bag of pork scratchings. While I might surreptitiously steal one or two, they’re not usually the most pleasant experience – unless munching on deep-fried hunks of grease is your thing. However the pork crackling from Mr Trotter’s is in quite a different league and unlike anything you’d find on offer in your average pub.

Mr Trotter’s ‘revolutionary’ British pork snack was the brainchild of food writer Tom Parker Bowles, Great British Menu judge Matthew Fort, and Cotswold farmer Rupert Ponsonby. Unlike most scratchings made from imported Danish rind, it is cooked from 100% British pork, and uses no added MSG. Mr Trotter’s are triple-cooked for a fantastic crunch, and seasoned with natural yeast and sea salt. The Original variety is pretty good, but it’s the Jalapeno Chilli version that really floated my boat and I reckon it’s the perfect accompaniment to a pint of lager. Not too greasy, they’re light and crunchy, and very, very tasty. Not the healthiest snack in the world either but ruddy lovely nonetheless.

Gran Luchito Honey

gran luchito honey

You might have gathered I’m something of a chilli-head and so I was rather intrigued and quite excited to discover this pot of Gran Luchito Honey flavoured with smoked Mexican chillies in my latest recipe box from Kitchen Nomad.

I only had a small pot and all of it was used in a Chilli Honey Crumble, which was absolutely delicious, but I do wish I had some more as I think it would be wonderful simply spread on hot buttered toast. Fellow blogger Kelly Anderson mentioned recently on Instagram that she likes hers “drizzled over chocolate croissants” and I can imagine that working too.

It has a heavenly smoky sweet flavour, spiked with occasional bursts of intense chilli heat.

I must get my hands on more of this stuff. And soon.

Tomato Paste Collage

Olive Branch – Sun Dried Tomato Paste

I received a pot of this sun dried tomato paste from Olive Branch in my goody bag at Food Bloggers Connect back in the summer. Featuring sun dried tomatoes mixed with garlic, fresh basil and oregano, the paste packs a tasty punch and is bursting with flavour. We’ve been enjoying it smeared on bruschetta and it’s the perfect way to create a simple pasta bake, with the addition of black olives and mozzarella, for a quick and easy supper.

French’s & Frank’s RedHot recipe books


While I’ve yet to buy a single Christmas present (and I plan to spend as little as I can this year by making as many gifts as possible), I think these neat little cookbooks would make fun stocking fillers for the fellow foodie in your life.

I haven’t tried the BBQ sauce, but I am rather partial to Frank’s RedHot sauce and, although French’s Classic Yellow Mustard isn’t a patch on our own very fine English mustard, it is a must when you’re enjoying American-style hot dogs.

Available from newsagents and most supermarkets, these pocket-sized cookbooks are just £2.99 each and provide a wide range of recipe ideas based on these three sauce brands. The recipes are pretty simple and while they won’t revolutionise your cooking, there are some good ideas for spicing up everyday meals. In particular I’m looking forward to trying Frank’s spicy cheese toasts and French’s easy peasy ribs.

Cool Chile Co – Diced Chile Ancho

Cool chile co - chile ancho

I think I might be addicted to this ancho chilli from the Cool Chile Co. It is a fairly mild chilli but one that gives a full-flavoured, smoky and fruity intensity to your Mexican dishes.

Apparently it’s an indispensable ingredient in Mole Poblano (a rich chilli, nut and cocoa sauce), although I’ve been using it in black bean soup and rajas tacos, two more recipes from this month’s Mexican Kitchen Nomad box.

But to be honest I think I could eat practically any dish if it comes with a handful of toasted ancho chillies sprinkled on top!

Disclosure: I was sent Mr Trotter’s Great British Pork Crackling and French’s & Frank’s Red Hot recipe books for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Round up: July’s Recipes for Life challenge

Oats, berries and honey were the three set ingredients for July’s installment of the Recipes for Life challenge and I was rather impressed with the variety of dishes we received.

While we might not have attracted as many entries as in previous months, I’d say it was definitely a case of quality over quantity and the team at SWALLOW still had a pretty tough job to decide the winner. But before we make that announcement, let’s run through the entries…

Raspberry and Toasted Coconut Flapjacks with Yoghurt Drizzle from Under The Blue Gum Tree
Raspberry and Toasted Coconut Flapjacks with Yoghurt Drizzle from Under The Blue Gum Tree

Claire at Under The Blue Gum Tree got in there first with her tempting Raspberry and Toasted Coconut Flapjacks with Yoghurt Drizzle, which would be equally welcome at breakfast time as a well as lovely teatime treat. I do like the idea of serving them with custard too for a perfect pud.

Honey Nut Granola and Raspberry Yogurt Parfaits from Whatever Gets You Through The Day
Honey Nut Granola and Raspberry Yogurt Parfaits from Whatever Gets You Through The Day

Another entry I could easily see myself scoffing for breakfast are these deliciously virtuous Honey Nut Granola and Raspberry Yogurt Parfaits from Iris at Whatever Gets You Through The Day. Like Iris, granola is one of my favourite foods and I love the look of hers. Everybody should make their own granola!

Strawberry & Honey Super Smoothies from Bangers & Mash
Strawberry & Honey Super Smoothies from Bangers & Mash

Regular readers of this blog might have noticed I’m rather partial to a fruit smoothie. They’re a pretty standard feature of our more leisurely weekend breakfasts in the Bangers & Mash household. These Strawberry & Honey Super Smoothies are a tasty and energising way to start the day.

Fruit and Nut Granola from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Fruit and Nut Granola from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary brings us another granola as her entry. Her Fruit & Nut Granola is jam-packed with juicy fruity nutty goodness and I’m definitely stealing her idea of using cashew nuts next time I make up a jar.

Duck with a Honey and Oats Crust Served with Berries Compote
Duck with a Honey and Oats Crust Served with Berries Compote

Martin from Spurs Cook always comes up with surprisingly ingenious entries and this month was no exception. Check out his Duck with a Honey & Oats Crust and Berries Compote – not something you’d expect to see here, right? But it looks pretty damn good nonetheless.

Blueberry and Oat Drop Pancakes from Rich in Flavour
Blueberry and Oat Drop Pancakes from Rich in Flavour

Another inventive entry comes from Rich at Rich in Flavour with these gorgeous Blueberry and Oat Drop Pancakes, for a deliciously lazy Sunday brunch with a clever combination of the classic winter breakfast, porridge and the American pancake of choice, blueberry. I do look forward to trying them out myself.

Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summer Berry Jam from The Crazy Kitchen
Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summer Berry Jam from The Crazy Kitchen

Helen from The Crazy Kitchen has been a fantastic stalwart of the Recipes for Life challenge and despite being away on holiday she still managed to get an entry in this month. Her Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summery Berry Jam look absolutely irresistible and I’m rather taken with the notion of serving cookies with homemade jam.

Cherry Crumble Muffins from Bangers & Mash
Cherry Crumble Muffins from Bangers & Mash

The final entry is one of mine but technically I shouldn’t really allow it as it features cherries which of course are not actually a berry. This really didn’t occur to me until I was posting the recipe last week but I went and entered it anyway. Cherries are very similar to berries, aren’t they? And you could easily substitute them for blueberries or blackberries. Anyway, here are my Cherry Crumble Muffins.

So there you go – July’s mouth-watering entries for Recipes for Life. Which one would you choose to win? I’m very glad the decision wasn’t down to me. That was the task for the team at SWALLOW, who are collecting recipes for their cookery club to try out, the best of which will appear in their new cookbook coming out later in the year. So which one did they go for? Drum roll please…

This month’s winner is the talented Martin from Spurs Cook with his Duck with a Honey & Oats Crust and Berries Compote and a very deserving winner he is too. Huge congratulations to Martin – a little something will be on its way to you shortly from SWALLOW.

That really should have been the last month of the Recipes for Life challenge but due to ‘popular demand’ we have decided to extend it by another month. Watch this space for news of the next three ingredients. Will you rise to the final challenge?


Cherry crumble muffins

cherry crumble muffins

We often make apple crumble muffins in our house. They’re a lovely cross between a cake and a pudding and popular with children and grown ups alike. The other day I thought I’d see what they were like using cherries instead of apples. I was inspired by my friend Sarah who baked us the most gorgeous cherry crumble when we went over to hers recently. I thought the apple crumble muffins were good, but boy! These cherry bad boys are to die for – I’m totally addicted!

cherry crumble muffins

Cherry crumble muffins

Makes 12

For the topping:

50g butter
50g Demerara sugar
30g plain flour
50g rolled oats

For the muffins:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp honey

48 cherries, pitted

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the Demerara sugar, flour and oats. Work them together using your finger tips until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Make a well in the middle, pour in the melted butter, beaten eggs and honey and mix gently.

cherry crumble muffis

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Place four cherries on top of each muffin and then carefully sprinkle over the crumble topping.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Just perfect for a mid afternoon snack.

cherry crumble muffins

As these scrummy muffins contain oats and honey, and cherries are almost berries (yes, I know they can’t be a berry because they have a stone rather than seeds), I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And since I’m hosting it, I’m going to allow cherries in as a wannabe-berry. So there. Sticklers for the rules can swap their cherries for blueberries or blackberries I suppose.


Strawberry and honey super smoothies

Strawberry super smoothie

We slurp our way through a fair few smoothies in our house. They’re the perfect way to use up ripe bananas, especially when it’s way too hot to consider baking banana bread, and they are a brilliantly healthy start to the day. Although saying that, quite often our smoothies are rather indulgent, especially when my husband makes them with lots of vanilla ice cream.

This strawberry and honey super smoothie is of the healthy variety. It features a couple of spoonfuls of rolled oats, making it extra thick and creamy and perfect for a fuel-filled breakfast.

And of course they’re ridiculously easy to make, which is essential first thing in the morning.

strawberry super smoothie

Strawberry and honey super smoothies

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
400g strawberries, hulled and chopped
4 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp rolled oats
1 pint ice cold milk

Simply pop all the ingredients into your food blender and whizz until smooth and frothy. That’s it.

Serve alongside your bowl of cereal or dippy eggs and soldiers for a top brekkie.

strawberry super smoothie

Because these super smoothies are so easy to rustle up and contain this month’s trio of ingredients (honey, oats and berries), I’m entering them into the Recipes for Life challenge, which I also happen to be hosting.


July is the penultimate month for Recipes for Life. Each month we challenge food bloggers to create tasty, healthy and easy-to-make dishes using three key ingredients.

I’m running the challenge on behalf of a brilliant charity called SWALLOW, which supports adults with learning difficulties. Their cookery club will have a go at making the recipes themselves and the best ones will be included in a new cookbook later in the year.

Perhaps you’d like to get involved in the challenge? Find out more here.


July’s Recipes for Life challenge: berries, honey and oats


This was supposed to be the final month for the Recipes for Life challenge. Can you believe we’re onto month six already? Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? But due to popular demand – well, a bit of banter recently on Twitter – we’ve decided to extend the challenge by another month.

So, I welcome you to the penultimate month for Recipes for Life! July’s three ingredients, as selected by the cookery group at SWALLOW, are berries, honey and oats. What mouth-watering, healthy, easy-to-make dishes could you create with those?

The berries can any kind of berries you fancy – gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries – the list goes on. The berries can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. The honey can be set or runny. The oats can be Scotch or rolled. As ever, we’re pretty flexible really. All we ask is that you keep your recipes as simple as possible and any other ingredients you use should be found in most fridges or store cupboards, or otherwise easily sourced from any supermarket or grocery shop. Full guidelines on how to take part are below.

At the end of the Recipes for Life challenge, the best recipes will be included in SWALLOW’s new cookery book. SWALLOW is a brilliant charity in Somerset, supporting adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. Your recipes will also be recreated by SWALLOW’s cookery group, which is run by the lovely Tracey. The group meets every Wednesday and introduces its members to simple but delicious dishes they can make on their own.


Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above and available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by everyday items.
  3. Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Tuesday 30 July 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #RecipesforLife@BangerMashChat and@SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet each one we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much-needed funds for its ongoing work.

We have been absolutely thrilled at the support we have had from food bloggers for the Recipes for Life challenge – thank you all so much. And we look forward – hungrily – to your entries for July!

July’s entries

  1. Raspberry and Toasted Coconut Flapjacks with Yoghurt Drizzle by Under The Blue Gum Tree
  2. Honey Nut Granola and Raspberry Yogurt Parfaits by Whatever Gets You Through The Day

  3. Strawberry & Honey Super Smoothies by Bangers & Mash
  4. Fruit & Nut Granola by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary
  5. Duck with a Honey & Oats Crust and Berries Compote by Spurs Cook
  6. Blueberry and Oat Drop Pancakes from Rich in Flavour
  7. Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summery Berry Jam by The Crazy Kitchen
  8. Cherry Crumble Muffins by Bangers & Mash

Parsnip and carrot cakes

While it might be unlikely you’ve arrived at this page if you dislike parsnips, these cakes actually happen to be perfect for anyone who isn’t a member of the parsnip fan club as you would never guess they contained any if you hadn’t been told first.

Beautifully moist and incredibly moreish, they’re a great way to use up unwanted parsnips, particularly when they become a slightly too frequent inclusion in the veg box this time of year.

Personally, I rather like parsnips. They’re delicious roasted, when they take on that sweet caramelised flavour, with a slightly crunchy, slightly chewy texture. My other half however strongly disagrees and groans if he sees them in the fridge. Despite that he gobbled up these parsnip cakes more than happily.

Without the cream cheese topping, they are very tasty and ideal for the children’s packed lunch boxes or an after school treat. But with the topping, they are elevated to a decadent and indulgent level of scrumminess you’d simply never believe a root vegetable could reach.

Parsnip and carrot cakes

Makes 12 muffin-sized cakes

180g butter
250g demerara sugar
100ml honey
3 eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
250g parsnips, peeled and grated
150g carrots, peeled and grated
50g sultanas

For the topping (optional)

400g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
50g soft butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the butter, sugar and honey in a large pan and melt over a gentle heat, and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the eggs, and then the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Then stir in the parsnip, carrot and sultanas.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and the top is springy to the touch.

Cool the cakes for five minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the topping, cut up the butter and then cream together with the cheese. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat in until there are no lumps. Smear generously and lovingly over your cakes.

Best eaten with a fork in polite company. But if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself devouring these late at night, straight from the tin and with such gusto you end up with topping all over your face. Bliss!

Floral honey party sandwiches

Sometimes I am unashamedly girly and I make the most of the fact I have two young daughters as a good excuse to play with pink, fluffy, sparkly, flowery things.

When I happened upon Le Frufru’s beautiful blog recently, as I traced the source of some pretty pictures I’d come across on Pinterest, I fell in love with her sugary sweet sandwiches for children’s parties. I had to give them a go myself. My photographs are nowhere near as beautiful as the originals but you get the general idea.

I haven’t had the opportunity yet to actually make them for a party. I simply made them to give to the girls at tea time. And you can imagine how much they enjoyed them. Especially the way the hundreds and thousands clung to their lips as they took a bite.

Le Frufru’s blog is written in Italian and so I’m not entirely sure how she made her sandwiches but it doesn’t look complicated, does it?

I made mine by firstly trimming the crusts off white bread. Next the slices were cut into small squares and spread with butter. Using a flower-shaped pastry cutter, I cut out floral holes in half the squares and spread the remaining squares with runny honey. Finally I topped the honey slices with the floral slices and sprinkled into the hole a generous amount of hundreds and thousands.

Despite there being no baking involved, I’m entering these dainty little sandwiches into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge organised each month by Lavender & Lovage and What Kate Baked. This month Karen at Lavender & Lovage is hosting and the theme for May is Floral Flavours & Flowers. I thought my girly nibbles might (just) fit the bill.

Whether you make them for a girlie birthday party, a Jubilee street party, a dolls’ tea party or just a plain old back-from-school treat, I hope you enjoy! And of course you can use any shaped cutter you fancy, and use chocolate sprinkles instead of the classic hundreds and thousands.